Training Cats, Conditioning and Your Future
Some years ago, decades in fact, I used to visit my uncle and his wife. They didn't have any children at the time, I wasn't even a teenager then and I would like to think as long as I wasn't too aggravating they enjoyed my visits.
They had this cat that was a bit neurotic, even for a cat. She wasn't one of those cats that hide in a corner and fret, she worried and fretted in plain view. They fed the cat canned cat food and in that day you had to open the cans with a can opener. They had this loud electric can opener and I soon realized that if they pushed the lever down to open the can, the cat showed up before the can was even opened. She didn't come quietly either, she mewed and meowed and for a cat I would say hollered. She would rub against your legs and ankles and if you delayed she would try to climb your pants leg. If you pushed her back she circled in the floor and fretted. So I got this idea.
Every time I came over to visit, I could just walk in, my grandparents lived across the yard, but every time I walked in the back door I would press the can opener lever and let it growl.
No matter where she was, that cat came running and would put on quite a show until they fed her.
Her human parents said, “Please don't do that.” They had to stop whatever they were doing and feed the cat.
Well, I didn't stop. I started experimenting. I would try to see how little of a bump I could give the can opener and how short and soft of a sound I could create and the cat would still come. If I heard it, the cat heard it. My aunt and uncle might not hear it, but the cat did.
Later I realized that when it came because I bumped the can opener it acted a little different then when they ran it and opened a can of cat food. It was like she knew I wasn't going to feed her, but she had to come anyway and was just internally disrupted and conflicted over it. Almost like she was saying, “Why do I do this? I know he isn't going to feed me and I am going to have to raise a real ruckus to get my owners to come in here to really feed me.”
Here is where I got interested in psychology. My uncle had taken psychology in college and said the cat's behavior was simple conditioning. Can opener sound associated with being fed. She expected to be fed.
In time I was convinced that when the cat saw me it didn't expect to be fed. Not every time I bumped the can opener did the cat get any food, sometimes they were in the yard or for some reason just didn't feed her.
I could bump the can opener, the cat would come into the kitchen, see me, realize I was the only one there, hesitate, then go and circle around where she was normally fed halfheartedly meowing and then go back to whatever she was doing before.
I can imagine her thinking, “I don't know why I do this...”
So what has this got to do with you and me?
We are often like the cat. We get trained, conditioned to do something and just keep on doing it when we know better.
Want to lose weight? Then cut back on your calories and eat healthy. But most people won't, they are conditioned to do otherwise. They eat the cheesecake and think, “I don't know why I do this…”
We know we have to change what we are doing to get different results, but we just keep on doing “it” whatever “it” is in this case.
We are fooling ourselves.
Bob Proctor has an interesting saying he quotes from someone that told him the saying and made him puzzle over it. “Nothing changes until something changes.” It sounds silly to begin with, sort of like it won't rain until it rains. There is a deeper meaning in it though. It means to change what you get you have to change what you do and to change what you are doing, you have to change, because you are doing right now exactly what the present you would do.
Change is an inside job. Change is not fooling yourself any more. Change is looking at what you want, backing up and seeing what you would have to do to have it, then backing up again and seeing what you would have to change about you to actually do it. Then making that internal change first.
There is a book titled “Primary Domino Thinking” by Anthony Dallmann-Jones PhD that is based on this principle. It is a bit hard to work through, but the basic premise is life is like a row of dominoes.
You line up a row of dominoes and then knock over the first one and the rest will topple until you get to the last domino and it falls.
You think the necessary internal thought that changes you based on your goal and just like the dominoes every step necessary to bring you to your goal will occur. The thought that started this and set it all in motion he calls the Primary Domino Thought.
In the book he covers some other things, like owning things in your life, accepting what you can change and what you can't, it is a bit zen and new age, but it had a dramatic affect on my life when it came out.
So, where are you conditioned to act in a way that you know is useless and not bringing you your goals? You do have written goals don't you?
How can you own your life and results and take back control by thinking and maintaining your Primary Domino Thought?
My wife got up late and just came in and asked if I wanted breakfast. I have already had a light breakfast, but I do want to eat one of her good breakfasts. Or do I? I might want to eat a second breakfast and not gain weight, but really that isn't an option, so I guess by holding the question up to the light of my goal and intention, I really don't want another breakfast. I will just have some tea and visit at the table.
Best and be blest,
Scott Hogue CChH
Scott Hogue is a Strategic Life Coach, an Author and a Certified Christian Hypnotist.